It is generally thought that the first hydraulic mini-excavator was built by the “Kobe Steel Co.” in
1968 and was called the 10A model. They were followed by “Takeuchi” in 1971 and “Kubota” in 1974.
These machines started to enter the UK in the 1980’s and quickly gained popularity in the 90’s,
until nearly every hire shop and builder now owns this type of compact machine.
British manufacturers such as “Smalley” and “Powerfab” entered the market in the 1980’s, but
now nearly all machine designs originate from the Far East.
Due to their reliability and low running costs, machines are rarely scrapped, they are resold as
the years go by.
1980, and early 1990’s models are now mainly in the ownership of small builders, landscapers, or
even people completing self-build houses.
There are at least 30 different brands of mini-excavator on the world market, although a great
deal of “badge” engineering goes on, with modifications as necessary to suit the local market
Japan has been the main market place for mini excavators, with Europe as the second major
Due to the popularity of the skid-steer loader, mini-excavators have been slow to gain market
share in the USA but in the last five years the number of sales have rapidly increased particularly
in the cities.
The recession in Japan has depressed the market there leading to many almost new machines
being imported into the UK and other EU countries.
These machines have been labeled “grey market machines” and have to be “CE” certificated by
the importer. The machines coming from Japan can be models which are a number of years
ahead of the current European machines, i.e. zero tail-swing machines have been sold in Japan
for a number of years before they were available in Europe
Mini excavators are continually being developed and the technological advances can be
summarized as follows:
Interchangeable rubber tracks – early 1990’s
Servo controls, knuckle booms, extending dippers, – mid 1990’s
Zero-tail swing machines, half pitch rubber tracks late 1990’s
Asymmetric rubber tracks – by Yanmar early 2000’s
Offset Boom facility – – 2000’s by Takeuchi and Neuson
Over the last ten years the major developments in mini excavator design have been improving
emissions and fuel economy.